Professor Jim Swindler spent the 2013–2014 academic year on sabbatical leave working on the problem of collective responsibility. His previous work and reading had convinced him that the key to understanding responsibilities of individuals in groups and of groups themselves is the concept of social role.
Swindler received a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and he collaborated with Professor Stephen Kemp, a sociologist, to organize a symposium on social role theory, titled “Theorizing Roles and Collective Intentionality.”
The symposium attracted a solid interdisciplinary audience, engaging all the speakers in productive discussion. Swindler gave a talk, “Social Roles and Moral Law,” at the symposium, and later in the year he presented a work-in-progress colloquium, “The Roots of Social Roles,” at the Institute for Advanced Studies for the Humanities. This latter talk was to a very interdisciplinary audience of Institute Fellows from across the humanities who are working on a wide range of issues, including the history of slavery in Haiti, international terrorism, and the reception of Kantian philosophy in the 19th century. In September 2013 Swindler presented a version of his Edinburgh symposium talk at the Collective Intentionality IX conference at Indiana University.
Swindler continues to work hard on his sabbatical project. He has kept a journal, now exceeding 50,000 words, of reactions to readings and discussions, with various formulations of issues, insights, and arguments. He aims to complete a book incorporating this and earlier work this side of a not-too-distant horizon.
Swindler has returned to Illinois State and is busy teaching and working on a number of projects. This fall he will present an invited commentary on a paper on transcendent arguments at the annual Southwestern Philosophical Society meeting at the University of Kansas, and on a paper on the theory of reasons at the Illinois Philosophical Association meeting at Illinois State.